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The Week Ahead

Putting the wheels on climate talks

Our focus topics for Nov 16-22: global warming, the EU’s Arctic future, hearing both sides of the Faroese whaling debate
Igloo 2.0 (Photo: UNDP)

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iAbout Press releases

As part of our continuing efforts to bring you as much information about our region as possible we offer readers a press release service that allows private firms, public agencies, non-governmental organisations and other groups to submit relevant press releases on our website.

All press releases in this section are published in their full length and have not been edited.

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Each Monday, we explain some of the events and issues that we’ll be reading more about during the week ahead. If you have an event you think should be included next week, please contact us.

Thanks to the World Meteorological Organisation, we already have an idea of what the weather will be like in the Arctic in 2050. The UN agency, on October 28, released a series of imagined forecasts in order to show how the weather in various regions would be should global warming continue unabated.

The videos are part of an effort to draw attention to the UN climate summit, being held in Paris starting on November 30. Such initiatives are something we will only see more of in the coming weeks.

For some, the meeting is the culmination of preparations that have been in the works since 2009, when world leaders, gathered in Copenhagen for that year’s climate summit, failed to come to terms on a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, which sought to set limits on carbon dioxide emissions.

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At that time, the poster-child for the catastrophic effects that global warming would have were island states, mostly in the Pacific Ocean, that would see their territory disappear as sea levels rose.

That the WMO Arctic forecast was the first video released hints that the region in the ensuing years has also attained bellwether status.

In addition to the forecasts, plenty of thought has already gone into ensuring that decision-makers are aware of the impact of rising temperatures on the region and, not least, the livelihoods of the people who live there.

Washington, for example, has included climate change as an issue to be addressed during its Arctic Council chairmanship. The matter, and its relevance to the Arctic, was also taken up by the Obama administration during the GLACIER event, which was interpreted as a semi-official start to Washington’s public-relations effort for the Paris summit.

SEE RELATED: The Arctic theatre

Climate and the Arctic was later addressed during the October meeting of the Arctic Council’s Senior Arctic Officials. At the time, David Balton, the senior US diplomat who chairs the council, said the Arctic Council would have representatives on hand in Paris.

For others, the effort to raise attention to the effects of global warming is more strenuous: on November 9, a relay run began in Kiruna, Sweden, that will see 1,000 people running legs on the route to Paris. In August, another ‘to Paris’ run began, this one starting in Tromsø.

During the meeting itself, Inuit mushers are scheduled be in Paris as part of efforts to document climate-change. For practical reasons, the sledges they drive in the streets of the Parisian capital will have wheels. It is, hopefully, not a forecast of things to come.

Bringing the Arctic to Brussels
With the European Union due to release its Arctic strategy next year, helping Brussels to make an informed decision has become an imperative for many in the region.

For now, the EU remains on the fringes of Arctic politics. Most in the region understand that that should change, given that Brussels already plays an important role, particularly in areas like research, fisheries and regional development.

Thanks to Sweden and Finland, the EU already includes Arctic territory, but Brussels’ ultimate goal is observer status on the Arctic Council. For now, it is in the waiting room, due to Canadian dissatisfaction with the EU’s ban on the import of seal products.

SEE RELATED: Editor’s Briefing | The EU

For that reason alone, there will be much attention cast on Arctic Futures, an annual two-day gathering that gets underway in Brussels tomorrow. Bringing the message to Eurocrats is, according to organisers, indeed one of the goals of the 2015 symposium, who say that location will mean a lot, for presenters and attendees.

Worth noting on the programme itself, says Joseph Cheek of the the International Polar Foundation, which is organising the seminar for the sixth time, will be the input of Jian Yang, the vice president of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, who may shed some light on China’s plans to develop the Northern Sea Route, a shipping lane along Russia’s northern coast.

Another matter the gathering will address, Mr Cheek explains, is the idea that the Arctic has uniform needs. “It is one region, but it has different areas, and they each need to be treated differently,” he says.

Hand across the waters
Few issues expose the divide between conservationists and traditionalists as whaling in the Faroe Islands. On Wednesday, Sjúrður Skale, one of the country’s two representatives in the Folketing, the Danish national assembly, has invited experts to testify at a hearing that will explain the political, legal, economic and cultural aspects of the whale hunt.

Also called in to testify is Alex Cornelissen, the managing director of Sea Shepherd Global, an anti-whaling group.

Mr Cornelissen’s organisation is a bitter opponent of whaling world-wide. In the Faroe Islands, its efforts to disrupt the hunt have led to the Danish navy being deployed and the imposition of laws aimed at barring activists from entering the country.